By Mina Williams For The Herald
EDMONDS — Customers buying bananas at PCC Natural Markets may think they are just filling a lunch sack or getting an ingredient for a pie.
But in the state of Colima, Mexico, that purchase helps provide a literacy program for the farmers’ children that gets them through junior high, high school and college.
Through the San Diego-based Organics Unlimited, Mexican organic crops are delivered around the world. Some of those bananas end up in the produce department of the Edmonds PCC store under the nonprofit Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers (GROW) label.
With the small purchase of a banana, shoppers help to improve the lives of farm workers. PCC purchases the fair-labor organic bananas from Organics Unlimited and donates 60 cents per box of the fruit to the nonprofit. In 2009, PCC’s rebate equaled $19,340.
The GROW program provides a grant each year to Project Amigo, a Colima-based agency focused on supporting education and health programs serving rural families in that growing area of Mexico.
“Our customers enjoy their consistently great taste and knowing that their banana purchases benefit grower families — both directly and through programs such as Project Amigo,” said Tracy Wolpert, chief executive of PCC Natural Markets. “We appreciate Organics Unlimited as a reliable source of quality organic bananas.”
The nonprofit began funding programs, including Project Amigo, in Colima in 2006.
“When people buy GROW bananas, they are supporting higher education and community services to the people in the community from which the bananas come,” said Ted Rose of Project Amigo, organically of Seattle. “Without the GROW donation, 28 bright kids would not have the opportunity to go to school and pull themselves and their families out of poverty.”
One of those students graduated from the University of Colima’s School of Law last December. That same month he was elected mayor of his village. He is the first village leader to have a university education.
“We know we can’t take care of the whole world, but we can make a difference with the people who are providing the food that we eat and that we sell,” said Mayra Velasquez de Leon, president of Organics Unlimited.